Friday, November 28, 2014

Heated bird bath from Wild Birds Unlimited

Just over a year ago we bought a heated (150 watt) bird bath & stand from Wild Birds Unlimited. We used it through the entire winter of 2013-14 and it performed well. We regularly experience temps below -20 C through the winter so I make a habit of bringing it (just the dish) in each evening and redeploying it with fresh water each morning. I reasoned that this would save us on electricity, lower the risk it getting knocked over by easily spooked nocturnal deer and perhaps lessen the wear on the heating element.

It performed well enough and while some have complained about the flimsy metal stand, this wasn't an issue for us as the feet of our stand were frozen fast in snow and ice for the entire winter. Others have lamented that their bird baths didn't attract birds. Ours sure did. Pretty much all of our regular feeder visitors drank and some of those also bathed. I've read some fretful comments that tempting birds to bathe in subzero temps will lead them to icy premature deaths. That's just hokum.

Alas, the heating element in our unit failed after a few weeks of sub-zero weather this fall. I took it back to the WBU franchise in Edmonton last week and they gave me a replacement with no hassles. Thanks WBU! [I've since learned that the product's warranty lasts four years.]

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nesting Broad-winged Hawks at Elk Island National Park

Tucked away in a Trembling Aspen along the Elk Island Parkway is this Broad-winged Hawk nest, which we first noticed in early June.

Today, July 25th, the young are perched on branches adjacent to their nest and appear poised to fledge.

I post these photos with mixed feelings as nest photography is fraught with ethical issues. These shots were captured out the window of my car along a busy roadway. Obviously the birds were aware of my presence but I didn't observe an signs of distress during my short stops.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mid-summer paddle on Astotin Lake - Red-necked Phalaropes!

We enjoyed a nice after dinner paddle on Astotin Lake, in Elk Island National Park. Not surprisingly, a flock of ~50 adult Red-necked Phalaropes were part of the expected leading edge of southbound shorebirds.
Good paddling mates!

Red-necked Phalaropes on Astotin Lake

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Some random owls near Fort Saskatchewan

After running a few errands in nearby Fort Saskatchewan late this afternoon, I was happily surprised to encounter a few Snowy Owls and a Northern Hawk-Owl along the roadside during my drive home. I took a few quick photos to convey the first and last impressions of the two species.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Golden Eagle over Elk Island National Park

Martha and I took the dog out for some exercise on January 13th in Elk Island National Park and were thrilled to come upon a well-scavenged bison carcass attended by three Coyotes, five Common Ravens and a dozen or so Black-billed Magpies. Perched about one hundred yards away was this juvenile Golden Eagle, our first sighting of this species in the park where it's considered to be a rare spring-fall migrant.

The eagle took flight and passed slowly overhead. Awesome!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fort Saskatchewan Christmas Bird Count

Martha and I had an excellent time participating in the Fort Saskatchewan CBC on December 14th. Conditions were fair to good - overcast, moderate wind, temps between -15 C and -12 C. We spent a good portion of the day snowshoeing through deep snow in the river valley.

In Turner Park, a mob of Black-billed Magpies drew our attention to a lovely weasel eating the face off of a dead Varying Hare.

A few small open stretches of water on the North Saskatchewan River hosted Common Goldeneye. Otherwise waterfowl weren't to be found. Winter finches were also absent despite an abundance of forest food crops, i.e., White Spruce cones, Mountain-ash fruit and White Birch seed.

As usual, Bohemian Waxwing was the most abundant species (photos from Turner Park during count week).

A total of 29 species were seen. A Northern Flicker was also seen during the count week. Here's the final tally.

Common Goldeneye 61 Common Raven 159
Gray Partridge 13 Black-capped Chickadee 472
Bald Eagle 3 Boreal Chickadee 3
Northern Goshawk 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch 11
Merlin 1 White-breasted Nuthatch 16
Gyrfalcon 1 Brown Creeper 1
Rock Pigeon 449 American Robin 12
Great Horned Owl 2 European Starling 129
Snowy Owl 1 Bohemian Waxwing 2,198
Downy Woodpecker 28 Dark-eyed Junco 27
Hairy Woodpecker 7 Snow Bunting 400
Pileated Woodpecker 3 House Finch 27
Northern Shrike 3 American Goldfinch 4
Blue Jay 57 House Sparrow 455
Black-billed Magpie 447

Many thanks to Art Hughes for coordinating/compiling the count and to Deb Wegner for hosting the compilation gathering and meal.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three Snowies near Fort Saskatchewan

The charismatic Snowy Owl is staging a significant irruption into eastern North America this winter. In the Edmonton area, there hasn't been an especially high number of Snowies reported so far this winter as best I can judge.

Today I was surprised to encounter three birds during my 20 km drive to Fort Saskatchewan. Usually I'm fortunate to see a single bird on this trip.